The Allstate Sugar Bowl Tennis Classic, which runs Saturday-Monday at the City Park Pepsi Tennis Center, brings something new to the table in its third year.
The tournament has been in New Orleans for the past two years as a USTA Southern Tournament, meaning only players from the nine states in the USTA's Southern Region were eligible to participate.
This year, however, boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 18 from any of the 50 states are eligible, though only the top 32 applicants according to the national rankings will qualify in each of 16 events.
“One thing that’s so exciting about this year besides (the tournament) being on a national level is the 300th anniversary of New Orleans,” said City Park tennis director Patti Todd. “Not only is it the anniversary of the city, but we were also voted as the No. 1 city in the world to visit.”
Todd sees those opportunities as great selling points for the kids that got in the tournament.
The Sugar Bowl organization sponsored the first tennis tournament in 1948 as a Southern Tournament. After 1993, the Sugar Bowl’s sponsorship of the tournament was on hiatus, and from 1994 to 2001, it expanded into the collegiate and international level.
When the tournament returned to City Park in November 2016, it followed its original format of the Southern Tournament.
Last year, the tournament welcomed 1,500 players, and Nicholas Watson of Baton Rouge was the Singles Champion of the B18 division.
Todd, who has worked at the park for the past nine years, finds the tournament’s rich history and culture as the most exciting part of bringing it back to New Orleans.
“When we got the Sugar Bowl on board and we made the agreement, we had to get a tournament,” Todd said. “We had three months (to prepare), and we knew the only way for it to be a success was for it to be a sanctioned tournament.”
The tournament organizers filled the draw during its first year back and had a waitlist of almost 200 people. They filled the draw for the following year as well.
Todd said she looks forward to the players coming from states like California, Florida, Texas and New York this weekend, as none of those players could even apply for the tournament for the past two years.
She also said she looks forward to the milestones the tournament winner will set.
“The 18-year-old that wins the tournament this year, he won on the first year that the tournament was nationally sanctioned, on New Orleans’ 300th anniversary and when New Orleans was the No. 1 city in the world to visit (according to the New York Times),” Todd said. “It’s like he’s making history himself."
Matches for the tournament also will be held at the Audubon, UNO and Xavier Tennis Centers. Admission is free.